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The eSports industry has grown tremendously over the years, and guess what. It’s still growing.

Increasing viewership has richly contributed both to its popularity and revenue. Brands, recognizing the potential of engaging a large and dedicated audience, are investing in eSports. By 2021, market intelligence firm Newzoo predicts that the annual growth rate of eSports will be approximately 14 percent, with 250 million eSports enthusiasts and 307 million casual viewers for a total audience of 557 million.

So phenomenal is eSports growth that the world’s most popular sports brands, the National Basketball Association (NBA) and ONE Championship, among others, have their eSports leagues and series, respectively. In the 30th Southeast Asian Games, eSports became an official part of the competition.

More recently, eSports gained ground in the country with the launch of the largest interschool eports program, which is looking at the participation of 1,000 teams from 200 schools with the opportunity to train, compete, be coached, win scholarships and become bemedalled eSports athletes.

Fresh from its organizing stint in the SEA Games eSports competition, Mineski Global has set its sights on developing the school eSports landscape by partnering with the Philippine Collegiate Champions League (PCCL) to transform eSports into a world-class, big-league competitive sport in schools nationwide. Mineski and the PCCL will manage and organize the new National Interschool Cyber League (NICL) and also create a sustainable and multipronged eSports program nationwide under the banner of the Youth ESports Program (YEP).

“The continued growth and development of eSports in the country presents us with another avenue for excellence, sportsmanship and inclusion. ESports advances not just skills but also values of hard work and determination among all players,” said Mineski Global CEO and founder Ronald Robins.

The PCCL, meanwhile, will offer member-schools a chance to participate in the new league and develop their own comprehensive eSports programs in collaboration with Mineski.

The PCCL has a long track record in national collegiate basketball championships and has recently recalibrated its program to include a wider list of activities to help spur participation among students and institutions. “This is the future of sports and competition. ESports is more inclusive than other sports and will help lead even more of our new generation to play competitively and responsibly in tournaments and engage in activities at par with the rest of the world,” Rey Gamboa, PCCL Chairman, said.

The PCCL is best known for bringing together leagues, such as the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP), National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and Cebu Schools Athletic Foundation Inc (CESAFI).

In 2019, PCCL hosted the Digital Games Championship, its maiden foray into eSports which saw 108 teams from various schools participate. A team from the University of the East won the championship.

For this year, Mineski has drawn up a comprehensive schedule of activities to engage students not just in competition but also in training, coaching, and developing full careers in eSports. Besides tournaments, there are plans for on-campus activities that will help promote careers in eSports, responsible gaming and other eSports-related topics for students. The First Asian Institute of Technology and Humanities (FAITH) Academy, based in Tanuan, Batangas is one of the pioneers in offering an eSports curriculum to its students.

“We’ll be exploring ways of training and motivating athletes for careers in eSports. This program will also promote eSports as a legitimate part of the school curriculum and reveal the positives it can bring to the table,” said PCCL ESports President Chot Reyes. “The same way basketball grew from the grassroots level, we’re now excited to promote and grow eSports in the country,” he added. The five-time PBA Coach of the Year and basketball coaching legend is expected to bring eSports to new heights.

A Filipino champion gamer, CEO Robins established Mineski Global and its related business units from an innovative and entrepreneurial spirit. He hopes to cultivate this as well among young Filipino gamers. “There will be a platform for eventual careers as eSports athletes or within the eSports ecosystems like game designers, content creators, product managers, event managers, and business developers, to name a few,” he said.

ESports took the limelight in last year’s Southeast Asian Games, with Filipinos like Caviar “Enderr” Acampado from Team Liyab leading the national eSports team to several victories. Acampado is the lone Filipino gold medal individual winner at the games while Team Philippines won the overall eSports title. Another standout e-athlete was noted shoutcaster Em “Kaysiya” Dangla, who advocates female representation in eSports.

Looks like eSports is here to stay. It’s “the big one” that we didn’t see coming and ain’t scared about.

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